The Seven Ps of HR


There are plenty of Ps in marketing. The four originals (product, price, promotion, place) and the extended mix for services (people, processes, physical evidence). As an undergraduate student the four Ps were imprinted on my brain, as were the seven Ps when I began working within professional services.

But they were imprinted within a 'marketing bubble', and never applied to another discipline.

With many companies moving from product-centric to customer-centric models, the distance between employee and customer strategies is diminishing almost to the point where they are holding hands. So whether you're a marketing professional dipping into HR, or a HR professional dipping into marketing, it simply makes sense to bring the two disciplines closer together.


From a HR perspective, your 'product' is the employee experience. The mostly intangible elements of employment. Employment covers the full spectrum of human resources from recruitment and induction to performance and development. When you design employee experiences (whether they be specific roles, learning programs or promotional pathways), you are designing your 'product' and in doing so seeking to create something distinctive and differentiated - just as you would for your end customers.


Price is the amount a customer pays for a product or service. The most obvious application of 'price' to HR relates to remuneration and other extrinsic rewards: essentially what an employer is willing to pay an employee. But there is another application of 'price' in HR, albeit a less obvious one, and that is what your employees are willing to pay (or forego) in exchange for these rewards. Although not strictly tangible, an employee exchanges knowledge, talent, ideas, effort, time and opportunity. They forego specific benefits to attain others. For example, they may forego a higher salary for more flexible hours or a more senior role for the opportunity to work overseas. Viewing 'price' as an exchange is a useful way to apply this element from the perspective of both parties.


Promotion is all about how you communicate the value of your product to your market. Your employer brand and employer value proposition sit firmly in this element of the HR mix with advertising, PR, personal selling and social media being some of your primary tools of trade. While these tools can help you articulate and communicate your value, sustainable promotion is underpinned by an employer identity that is genuine, credible, distinctive and attractive: attributes that provide a more credible means of communicating value to your audience. An employee experience that you can not only promise, but actually deliver on is one which will sell itself.


Place is where the employee experience happens. Traditionally, 'work' took place in a specific location, most often an office environment with other colleagues and clients communicating, interacting and working locally and mostly face-to-face. Today, the employee 'place' of experience is becoming increasingly dispersed, virtual and remote. Advances in technology have enabled unprecedented flexibility with respect to 'where' work happens: from co-working spaces where individuals share space to geographically dispersed teams who rarely, if ever meet face-to-face. Client meetings are equally as likely to take place in a local cafe as they are via Skype across the globe at any time of the day or night. As a result, the 'where' is now less relevant than the 'how' and flexibility reigns supreme.


Unlike tangible products, intangible services are mostly produced and consumed at the same time - between people. This applies equally to the employee experience. The way your people lead, communicate and interact in teams can have a positive or negative impact on your people and your employer brand. And these same capabilities and behaviours (or lack thereof) can be responsible for experience variability. This element of the mix is an obvious consideration for HR.


Processes effect the execution of a service. Whether direct (employee facing) or indirect (back office). There are a series of touch points in every employment experience. It is through the mapping and measuring of these experiences that organisations can ensure their HR processes enable, rather than hinder, positive outcomes. Just as every touch point in the customer experience matters, so too does every touch point in an employee experience. From your recruitment process to your performance review process, each step matters and directly impacts the overall experience.

Physical evidence

Despite the employee experience being predominantly intangible, physical elements matter. We often seek familiarity in services as a means of trusting in the next experience and this familiarity is often created with physical cues. These cues can range from visual branding (logo, style, language) through to the 'look and feel' of the environment within which you interact with colleagues and customers. Many companies have invested millions of dollars in the creation of spaces that attract, retain and excite employees. Where health, wellness and collaboration come to the fore and physical spaces ignite creativity and innovation. Put simply, your intangible employer image and identity are supported via the use of visual branding and tailored physical environments.

While there is no 'right' or 'wrong' way to interpret and apply the above mix, it can serve well as a means of testing your usual approach to the design of employee experiences. So when you next sit down for some HR planning, it might be time to mix things up and invite the 7 P's to the dinner.

Image: Derek Torsani on Unsplash

First published: 2016